Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre

45 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2000 Last revised: 24 Sep 2010

See all articles by Jeff Biddle

Jeff Biddle

Michigan State University

Daniel S. Hamermesh

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: November 1995

Abstract

We propose several models in which an ascriptive characteristic generates earnings differentials and is sorted across sectors. The general approach shows how to distinguish the ultimate sources of labor-market returns to such characteristics; the specific example uses longitudinal data on a large sample of attorneys who graduated from one law school. Beauty is measured by ratings of their matriculation photographs. 1) Better-looking attorneys who graduated in the 1970s earned more after 5 years of practice than their worse- looking classmates, other things equal, an effect that grew even larger by the fifteenth year of practice. There is no impact of beauty on earnings among 1980s graduates. 2) Attorneys in the private sector are better-looking than those in the public sector, with the differences rising as workers sort across sector based on their beauty. 3) Male attorneys' probability of attaining an early partnership rises with beauty. The results support a theory of dynamic sorting and the role of customer behavior. We cannot determine whether this is because clients discriminate or because better-looking lawyers are able to obtain greater pecuniary gains for their clients.

Note: NBER Reprint No. 2183

Suggested Citation

Biddle, Jeff E. and Hamermesh, Daniel S., Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre (November 1995). NBER Working Paper No. w5366. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225429

Jeff E. Biddle (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

Daniel S. Hamermesh

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-475-8526 (Phone)
512-471-3510 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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